I appreciate Leonard Jacobs’ scrutiny of ethics among his peers, but in threatening my and other bloggers’ independence in writing, he offends. He alienated himself from me when he predicated a lunch date on whether I would or would not tell him what I was going to write after attending a certain Bloggers Night.
San Francisco Bay Area-based theatre critic Chloe Veltman has published a “preview review” of Beckett’s Endgame currently running at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She does this at her lies like truth theatre blog, part of the high profile ARTSJOURNAL website.
For this same infraction of writing a preview review, Leonard Jacobs is still throwing little digs at critic/blogger George Hunka. Eight months after the fact! From just last week, here’s Leonard’s short post with the long title .
This Talkinbroadway.com Policy Surely Doesn’t Apply to George Hunka
Read about TalkinBroadway.com’s new policy on certain kinds of posts here.
So we have to expect that Leonard will hype his ethical outrage once more over this latest dastardly deed of a preview review. However, it’s unlikely he will adopt the same Hanging Judge Roy Bean persona with his peer Chloe Veltman that he did against hapless George Hunka.
Beyond being the only “Law West of the Pecos” in the theatrosphere, Leonard is also a journalist and national editor at Back Stage. So an obvious question: is all his hysterical huffing and puffing around this issue in the theatrosphere ever going to amount to an actual article? Doesn’t such an important matter demand a more deliberate journalistic approach?
Leonard and Back Stage would now have to do more than take to task an individual blogger/critic, they would need to challenge the journalistic ethics of ARTSJOURNAL for hosting Chloe’s blog and publishing this preview review. We can only wish for such an exceptional event as having two prominent publishers openly debating the ethics of reviews and criticism of theatre within the new digital realm.
Instead expect the continued attrition of the old rules without any real examination by the journalists most affected. And stay tuned for Judge Jacobs’ next tempest in a teapot as you read here the historic first ever “legitimate” preview review of a major New York performance by a blogger/critic.
What’s Beckett Without The Laughs?
When Mel Brooks said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die,” he probably had the plays of Samuel Beckett in the back of his mind.
These words came flooding back to me last night after I experienced a preview performance of Beckett’s Endgame at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. Director Andrei Belgrader’s production features an all-star cast: the movie actor John Turturro as Hamm, The Sopranos regular Max Casella as Clov, revered stage actor Alvin Epstein (who, among other things, originated the role of Lucky in the American premiere of Waiting for Godot) as Nag, and Broadway legend Elaine Stritch as Nell. Even though the production had some vivid moments, it lacked one element crucial to the successful staging of Beckett’s full-length plays: humor.
My heart nearly broke during the poignant exchanges between Nag and Nell. Epstein and Stritch cut such frail figures. They act their parts like sighs. There is also a note of terrible sweetness in their eulogizing about the past.
Casella and Turturro are at their best when angry at each other. Casella’s fury is particularly engrossing. He seems utterly worn down and at the very end of his rope with his life as a reluctant caregiver. Clov’s moments of vengeful mischief against Hamm are similarly powerful. I had always assumed that when Clov tells Hamm “there are no more painkillers” he’s telling the truth. But Casella made me think that he was playing another practical joke on his awful boss. Standing, twisted on stage with a small round jar in his hands and a glint of malice in his eye, Casella suggests that he might be telling a lie.
But — at least in preview — the 75-minute production drags and ultimately fails to help me connect with the tragedy at its heart, probably becauseBelgrader doesn’t seem all that interested in exploring the play’s vital streak of vaudeville comedy. The last production of Endgame I witnessed, by Cutting Ball in San Francisco, played up the slapstick elements. This made the audience painfully aware of the cosmic joke that underpins human life as viewed through aBeckettian lens. I only cracked a couple of half-hearted smiles at BAM last night, whereas belly laughs were required.